“There is only one tower where I know I’d live and be locked up forever, even to die there rather than return the keys – Mogador in Africa.” Paul Claudel
Essaouira, (formerly Mogador) is a walled city dating from the time of the Phoenicians, who named it Migdol or small fortress. In 1506, the city became the seat of a Portuguese fortress and was strengthened by the construction of ramparts.
We started at the fortress, surrounded by gulls who would be hoping for some fishy tidbits later in the day.
A short video at the fortress (Click on the image to watch)
After another delicious lunch, we headed to the fish market – the quantities and varieties just amazed me.
Crabs for sale
Sting rays for sale
Please excuse the way my sketches from this adventure are slowly dribbling in as I continue working on them, in between any new places I find!
Friday was Day 6 in Essaouira – time to get some serious sketching in. Also, serious shopping, serious massages, serious rug buying, you know, important things before we leave!
Karen (from Art Safari) took us down some alleyways to teach us about perspective. Just when you think you’ve got the hang of something, you learn new points that really make a difference!
Here are some of my efforts to practice perspective in my art…
Perspective – Mosque doors
Perspective – arches
Perspective – rug alley
And here’s one that looks as if I learned nothing, hah. Tamusica was an interesting shop with various drums and other musical instruments hanging around.
After Karen found us a colorful rug shop, the owner came out and yes, he did sell some rugs to us. (Not me, I was waiting to purchase mine in Marrakesh.) It’s quite an experience, looking at and buying a rug. You are ushered in, offered tea (which you must accept!), and presented with rug after rug until finally, you either find one you love or are worn down by their persistence! Next comes the bargaining. It’s really different than our big box stores!
Moustafa, a rug seller
And, for my last night in Essouira, I ended up with an upset tummy. By upset tummy I mean I couldn’t go very far from the bathroom. This continued each night until my return to stateside.
Unfortunately, it made me miss the going-away get-together the other folks had that night. They were all flying back to London the next day, and I would be on my way to Marrakesh.
Essaouira day 5 – Thursday
After breakfast, we walked down to the harbor to sketch the boats. They were so blue, and I was so intent on my sketching that I nearly missed a wagon full of sharks being unloaded!
The blue boats of Morocco
Essaouira harbor boats
Lunch today was at Taros, a rooftop restaurant. We noticed a lady eating sea urchins, they come by the dozen, like clams, and apparently are quite delicious. No thank you, I’d rather have my goat cheese and beet roots.
After lunch, to the fort – this time going inside and climbing up to the top for views of the local coast.
The fort at Essaouira
After that, the Essaouira fish market, which was very busy. Similar to the dogs at the meat market, there were many cats and kittens hanging around for scraps.
Essaouira fish market
I did several sketches at the fish market, but will add color and post them later.
Note: The spontaneous sighting on this day was the highlight of the trip!! #awesome
Day 5, Wednesday:
After the Berber market, we went to La Fromagerie for lunch. They make goat cheese and served a delicious lunch with generous servings of wine. We then had a short time after lunch to nap sketch.
The outdoor oven on the right may have been slow cooking dinner for another group
I went out front, where I spotted Karen shadowing two turtles, who were trying to mate. Not terribly thrilled with that entertainment, I happened to look past her and spotted a herd of camels passing by! There were 25-30 of them, moseying along, of different sizes and colors ranging from soft caramel to deep deep brown. It felt like a scene from a movie. All I could do was shout CAMELS!
We were hot on their trail, cameras in hand, as they were herded into a stone wall enclosure. We then found a knoll and climbed up to take as many photos as possible, until Karen suggested we were most likely annoying unnerving the camels, so we left them in peace and returned to share details of our unexpected sighting with the others.
Curious camel herd
This camel wanted to say hello
Back in Essaouira, we had time before dinner to head to the beach and paint the sunset’s glorious colors. I’m not showing my feeble attempts – it’s not easy at all!!! If you have been trying to paint skies, don’t be dismayed. Although, I should be very clear here – I did not improve! I stopped trying that night, and will just have to try again another day.
(If you missed part 1, you can read it here)
Next we walked over to the adjacent industrious and colorful Berber fruit and vegetable market.
Even though it wasn’t far from the meat market, the 5 minute walk was filled with sights and sounds that I have never seen at home.
Cars, donkeys, trucks, sheep and people going every which way
(There were actually too many things to absorb at once, so I ended up shooting photos and many of my sketches were done later.)
Helping out at the market
Sheep – not sure if they were on their way to the meat market! Hope not!
There is a tent with a barber (a Berber barber, hehe) and always the donkeys and carts. I was fascinated by their tent construction (simple), the scales they used (no batteries needed!) and thoroughly enjoyed the dealings of buyers and sellers.
A pile of carrots – This was typical, to spread them on plastic on the ground.
We found a few spots on a shady hillside to sit and sketch, mine was nestled between two donkeys. At one I was at the ‘wrong’ end, the other, near his head. I became rather infatuated with my nearby friend, as he/she posed rather nicely for me. (Yes, he was tied up, but still, I like to think he would’ve stayed anyway.)
My “neigh”bor – still not sure about the whole donkey/mule thing
Stay tuned for the third and final part of this extraordinary day!
Day 4, Wednesday:
There were SO many new sites and experiences here, so I’m using more than one post for this day.
We left in the morning for a Berber market. These markets are held weekly at each location. First was the meat market, not fun for those who don’t like the sight of dead creatures. The smell of raw meat and blood was strong, and dogs were hanging out to see what pickings they could grab. We didn’t stay there long – a few didn’t seem very happy to have our group taking photos, and we were probably in their way of sales.
To see someone sharpening knives with a stone, and raw meat for sale, just hanging from a stick might seem crude, but this is the way it has always been done here.
I appreciate their natural approach to life.
For our third day in Essaouira (Tuesday), we had our art lesson on the roof, sunshine and perfect temperatures as usual. I think we are spoiled with this weather! Well, I am, for sure. The thought of returning to wintry weather back home is the furthest thing from my mind right now!
Karen (our art tutor) discussed colors – contrast, cooler vs. warmer, neutrals, how to use color to recede shapes and a great idea for texture – using wax resist.
We walked down to the fort area, with cannons and ramparts and started sketching.
Original fort walls
Our lunch was at a sunny rooftop restaurant. Taking a break from the delicious Moroccan fare, I split a pizza with Karen.
Next, I passed on sketching and went shopping. A few of us stopped into a store and bought lovely linen jalabas, which are hooded caftans. The owner thought we were trying to negotiate, when really, we were only deciding whether to buy them right then, or wait until we returned. So he talked himself down 25% by the time we decided! This was after he said he didn’t negotiate! He made sure to have them shortened and delivered to our riad. I doubt you’ll find that kind of service at home, especially for that price!
Late afternoon – Karen and Nancy decided to go for a camel ride. Abdul (our Moroccan guide) came with us to the beach and took care of getting us there and getting the camels. I decided not to ride, but instead to sketch the one camel (meant for me in case I changed my mind) who posed ever so nicely. The minute my sketch was done, he got up and ambled away. No one was there to make sure he didn’t leave. And no one was there (that I could see) to attend to the horse that galloped by. Whaaat? Just horses and camels strolling about the beach. That is so not normal in the U.S. At home, all creatures are tied up or penned in.
This was just another moment in time that added to the surreal Moroccan experience.
My camel. (that I didn’t ride!) While sketching, Abdul needed to remind me to extend his lower lip. (The camel’s, not Abdul’s!)
But – back to their camel ride – I got some gorgeous shots of them riding off into the sunset.
Karen and Nancy riding their camels into the sunset
Dinner that night was fish. Fresh fish caught that day at a popular seaside eatery. Sea bass, sardines, crab, lobster, sea bream, calamari, red snapper, plate after plate (after plate!) of fish was served. Unfortunately, my very first bite resulted in a tiny bone getting lodged in my gums. And truthfully, while I did try a fish or two, I’m not used to so many kinds of fresh, fresh fish. And not so much a sea food lover. I didn’t go hungry though, there were enough fries and salad!
Essaouira fish dinner
Note: I know it’s been awhile since my last post! I went away (yes, again) and now the holidays are here. I appreciate your patience while I play catchup!
Morocco – a land of surprises.
From Essaouira, after another short art lesson from Karen on the roof, we set off in a van to a small fishing village, Moulay Bouzerktoun. It was hardly a village, I thought we were lost! Very few homes, and only one boat! But very picturesque, and we got some great sketching in of the (one) blue boat and the rugged coast.
The one and only boat we found
This building looked abandoned, but had lots of interesting textures
Moulay Bouzerktoun building
Next was the Val D’Argan winery, owned by a Frenchman for a fantastic lunch with wine, of course. We met the owner, and after lunch, relaxed by the lovely pool. Oh right, we sketched too!
Val d’Argan orange tree
Val d’Argan plant
Val d’Argan pomegranate tree
They still use a camel to plow the grape fields, and we were lucky to find him for fun sketch opportunities! I drew fast and furious, thinking this would be my only camel sketch opportunity. (Little did I know what the future held for me!)
Val d’Argan camel
Val d’Argan camel
Val d’Argan camel
Val d’Argan camel
Val d’Argan camel
On the return trip, we stopped at a place where they process and sell argan oil products. Fascinating to watch women working and fun to shop for souvenirs!!
Our dinner tonight was at “The Patio” a restaurant with delicious food. The candles and sheer curtains all around made for an arabian nights kind of atmosphere!
PS – I forgot to mention my new vocabulary learned from the British artists – ‘blimey’ I already knew, but ‘crikey’ was so much fun to say! I’m sure they were tired of hearing it from me!
Day 1 started off with a short art lesson on the roof. Temperatures were comfortable mid 70s the entire week. Karen (of Art Safari) had some really great tips and instructions on perspective, and how to “shrink” people as they get further away, depending if you are sitting or standing. She also gave a few pointers on the different arch types in buildings.
Our first lesson was valuable with so many people around!
Then, we were off exploring this new town. So many sights, sounds, people and creatures – it could have been overwhelming to the senses, but Karen got us sketching first thing, and that definitely got me focused: What do I want to sketch? Study it before starting. Then, just make the lines. Everything else slowly fades away.
After a bit, we all stopped for a break. The mint tea again! Oh joy. I so need to learn to re-create at home. But it’s never the same, is it?
Then more walking, some lunch and more sketching. (Exactly what I came for!) We found (I should say Abdul found it!) a shop that sold spices and watercolor pigments. The owner happily demonstrated the various colors, which several of us went back to purchase later.
Watercolor Pigments such as mogador blue and blue marjorelle
Closed up the afternoon sketching in a square with colorful rugs for sale, displayed on the sidewalk, even hanging from trees!